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Timberwolves at Suns
Friday, November 25th, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena
The Wolves suit up against the Phoenix Suns in tonight’s matchup. The Suns have been unsurprisingly inconsistent given the team’s young and inexperienced roster (ten of fifteen players are 25 or younger), and have already found themselves in 3 overtime games over the course of the short season. They enter the contest following a win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
PG: Ricky Rubio #9
SG: Zach LaVine #8
SF: Andrew Wiggins #22
PF: Gorgui Dieng #5
C: Karl-Anthony Towns #32
PG: Eric Bledsoe #2
SG: Brandon Knight #11
SF: Devin Booker #1
PF: Marquese Chriss #0
C: Alex Len #21
Nikola Pekovic – out/season (recurring foot pain)
Tyson Chandler – probable (personal), T.J. Warren – out (head)
Minnesota and Phoenix split the four game series the previous year 2-2. The two teams initial meeting saw the Wolves attempt to make a late fourth quarter comeback behind a monster effort from Zach Lavine on the bench. He would finish the game with 28 while shooting 3-4 from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t enough to stop the two-headed monster of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. The two opposing guards would both finish with over 20 points and 6 assists.
The next meeting was a different story. With Eric Bledsoe sidelined due to a torn meniscus, the Wolves sought to capitalize on a Phoenix Suns team lacking a clear identity. Seven Wolves players scored in double figures, with especially encouraging shooting numbers from Ricky Rubio who finished the night 6-11 from the field. Minnesota won 117-87.
Shabazz Muhammed was unable to sink a game-tying 3 as time wound down in the expiring moments of the Wolves/Suns third meeting, losing 104-107, but a hungrier Minnesota team would show up for the fourth and final showdown in March. It was a classic back and forth behind two of the most exciting young players from the 2015 draft. Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns repeatedly traded shots from all areas of the floor, with the Phoenix guard finishing the game with 30 points and 5 assists next to Towns 27-10-5 effort. The Wolves opening five put on a clinic, with each of the starters playing 30+ minutes while finishing in double figures. Minnesota won an absolute nail-biter 116-121.
The Suns should be an interesting matchup for the young and hyper-athletic Timberwolves. Phoenix is currently third in pace, and will try to score in transition against a Minnesota team still struggling to assert themselves on the defensive end.
Although not necessarily reflected in the win/loss column, the twin combo of Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe has been effective on the offensive side of the ball. Both guards are currently hovering at around 20 points a game. Rubio and Lavine will both have their hands full on the perimeter, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Thibs looks to Kris Dunn more as a defensive stopper to pair with the Ruibo-Wiggins perimeter tandem.
This is a chance for the Timberwolves to get back on track after several unforeseen skids during the opening games of the 16-17 season. It won’t be getting any easier. Following tonight’s matchup Minnesota will travel to Oracle Arena to face off against the red hot Golden State Warriors before returning home in games agasinst the stalwart Utah Jazz and New York Knicks. The Wolves need to start winning the games they’re expected to if they want to continue holding on to the shrinking glimmer of meeting this off-season’s high expectations. Time will tell if they’re up to the task.
TV: Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by- play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by- play)
(All stats found on NBA.com and basketball-reference.com)